Six years ago, my husband, Adam, and I had a bustling, blended family of six kids — his, mine and ours. Our quiver was full, not to mention our bathrooms. So when my husband and I felt unexpectedly drawn to adopt an orphan girl from China, we knew that the real test would be getting our kids on board. They had already made lots of adjustments being part of a big stepfamily. Would they want to share their time, parents and bedrooms with yet another sibling?
Surprisingly, most of our kids were captivated by the idea. "When can we get her?" they asked. But there was one holdout: Our youngest, Justin, was less than excited about the idea. We tried telling Justin that he would not lose any of our love or attention if another child came into our lives, but he seemed unwilling to give up his spot as baby of the family.
Over the next 18 months, we met other adoptive families, ate lots of Chinese food and learned all we could about Chinese culture. We prayed every day for our new family member, and as we trudged through the mounds of paperwork, we began referring to this new child by her name — Amberlie Joy. As we moved forward, Justin's heart warmed to the idea.
Finally, in July of 2006, we brought Amberlie home. The wide smile on Justin's face when he first held his baby sister made it clear that he was going to be a fabulous big brother.
A growing family
Amberlie was such a joy to our family that my husband and I decided to adopt from China again. We made plans to adopt 4-year-old twin girls, one of whom had cerebral palsy.
This time, Justin wasn't the only holdout. The teens wondered how we would manage two more children. One son worried about the logistics of a sister with special needs. Would people stare? But the real grumbling started when it came time to rearrange bedrooms.
Adam and I decided that our kids needed a clearer picture of what this adoption meant, so we brought our four youngest children to China with us. As we met the twins in Nanjing, my husband and I watched in awe as our children forgot about their concerns and comforted two scared little girls who were leaving behind everything they'd ever known. If not for our children, I don't know that Axi Grace and Addixian Hope would have so quickly accepted us. It was a miraculous trip, filled with warmth and laughter.
Today, I love watching my 16-year-old son toss his sister Axi into the air and catch her, as she dissolves into giggles. He only sees his little sister, not her disability. I also enjoy watching the kids chat and play outside and tell stories to each other at mealtime.
Yes, sometimes our kids have arguments, competing for our time and resources. And they're not fans of cramming into the minivan on family outings. But I know my kids' hearts are more open to loving people now. They have compassion for those who are different and a better sense of teamwork. Most of all, I see that their lives will be blessed with flexibility and a sense of adventure whenever God asks them to do something new.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "Room for More." Copyright © 2011 by Natalie Gillespie. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
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